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Tennessee Legislative Recap

(Thursday, July 02, 2009)

The American Kennel Club congratulates the many responsible dog breeders and owners in Tennessee who successfully endured a difficult 2009 legislative session. In particular, House Bill 386 and its companion, Senate Bill 258, were especially threatening.

If enacted as introduced, these bills would have:

  • Limited the number of dogs an individual could own;
  • Implemented inspections of any premises, without proving probable cause or procuring a warrant, where more than 20 intact companion animals over six months of age would be maintained; and
  • Permitted the states Agriculture Commissioner to confiscate animals and allow national humane organizations to house such animals.

However, due to the efforts of the AKC; its Tennessee federation, the Responsible Animal Owners of Tennessee; and many concerned fanciers and enthusiasts, the bills were significantly amended before final passage. The resulting provisions include:

  • Removal of ownership limits that appeared in early versions of the bill.
  • Exempting from licensure anyone who maintains dogs for the primary purpose of the practice of veterinary medicine, hunting, training and/or handling, or for the exclusive purpose of engaging in the business of boarding and/or grooming.
  • Requiring that inspections of commercial breeder facilities are conducted only by those who are actual employees of the state Department of Health.
  • Giving licensees 30 days from discovery to correct violations discovered during inspection of commercial breeder facilities.
  • Providing that no confiscation of dogs or cats from commercial breeders will be allowed under the bill.
  • Imposing a five-year "sunset" provision. The provisions of this bill will terminate on June 30, 2014.

The final version of the bill features a threshold—rather than a limit—that requires breeders who maintain more than 20 intact adult female dogs in order to sell their offspring as companion animals to be licensed by the Department of Health. The measure defines "adult" as a dog that have reached one year of age, or has reached sexual maturity. Contrary to some reports, as a threshold, this does not restrict individual property rights by imposing limits on how much property one can own.

The bill was sent to the governor for signature on June 30.

The AKC was pleased to assist the efforts of the Responsible Animal Owners of Tennessee in addressing HB 386 and SB 256. AKC contacted thousands of Tennessee dog club officials and breeders; encouraged concerned Tennessee breeders, fanciers, and enthusiasts to express their concerns with their legislators; and wrote letters in addressing the bills.